Mid 30’s today with snow still covering the tree branches after last night’s snowfall. Chilly, but no comparison to the bone chillin’ weather at last weekend’s shooting match. People hustled from the icy parking lot into the Grandstand Building to get warm. They looked cold, which is saying a lot considering most of the winter they don’t.
The end of season shooting competition gave participants the opportunity to show off their skills in archery, pistol, and rifle. M and E both shot in the sporting rifle class. E placed 4th in her division, while M took home the 2nd place ribbon in her age group.
It was a festive family atmosphere which included lunch and dessert. We baked a large King Cake to share with everyone. Our brown sugar and cinnamon sweet bread was well received and generated curiosity as well as compliments.
The King Cake reminded me of my grammar school days when a fellow classmate would start off the Carnival season by hosting the first King Cake party. This would be a kid with easy going parents who were willing to have a bunch of 7th graders come over to play records and dance, eat King Cake, and drink lots of Cokes.
The anticipation of these weekly parties caused me a lot of anxiety. So much so, that Pepto Bismol tablets became a regular part of my diet. This behavior caused great concern for my parents who decided to have some tests run to see if I had an ulcer. After a humiliating upper and lower GI series, it was diagnosed that I simply had a case of the nerves.
Don’t get me wrong, although I got nervous, I enjoyed these parties immensely and even hosted one of my own. My parents home was too small to accommodate all 30 or so classmates, so it was held at a neighborhood banquet room; my dad had connections. As I recall, everyone showed up for the party and it was a huge success. The hall was a wonderful place for a party, with what my dad recalls as plenty of space for “kids to play loud music and dance”. Mom supervised the party to make sure everyone stayed in line. Some of the boys were caught swigging TIPS (a small bottle of mouthwash) and it wasn’t until after the party was over that my dad discovered TIPS bottles blocking up the toilet tank. He didn’t care for that very much.
So what is a King Cake party and how do you have one? They’re not just for kids. Anyone, anywhere can have fun and celebrate this all-time favorite Mardi Gras custom.
1. A King Cake party is a New Orleans tradition celebrated during the Feast of the Epiphany. People gather together to have fun and eat King Cake (tastes like coffee cake). Whoever gets the plastic baby hidden inside the cake, hosts the next party, the next week. Your party must be during Carnival season which begins with King Day on January 6th and ends at midnight Mardi Gras Day.
2. Invite guests to your King Cake party. If they are unfamiliar with King Cake parties, explain what it is and how it works.
3. Buy or bake your own cake. If baking your own, get a plastic baby from a party goods store. Insert it in the bottom of the cake after the cake is baked. A maraschino cherry placed on top of the cake at each end of the cake is a good way to confuse your guests into thinking that is where the baby is hidden.
4. When the guests arrive, they will more than likely observe the cake to guess where they think the baby is. Discourage them from poking it with their fingers to find out.
5. After everyone has begun socializing, cut the cake into serving sizes being careful not to expose the baby.
6. Invite everyone to have a slice of cake. Remind them about the plastic baby. You don’t want anyone breaking a tooth.
7. Watch to see who gets excited and calls out “I’ve got the baby”!
8. If the person complains about having to throw the next party, tell them the party is a relatively inexpensive one. If they cannot afford it or truly do not want to host the next party, ask for a volunteer who can.
9. Continue the parties as desired until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, when the ritual of eating richer, fattier foods ends.
I’ve tried several King Cake recipes and the most recent one is delicious and a keeper. If you don’t want to bake from scratch, you can order this mix from New Orleans Gourmet Foods.
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